Before I could name you, I thought I was nothing more than you.
The monsters I thought were living under my bed were nothing compared to you, the monster in my mind—a never satisfied monster named: Shame. No matter how fast I ran in the direction of self acceptance, you’d catch up and whisper, “You are innately wrong. There is nothing good about you. You don’t matter.”
You left me with a painful weight in my chest after each perceived mistake. You left me with paralyzing fear after laughing loudly or talking a bit too much. You left me with my hands shaking each time I was corrected no matter how gently. You left me to spend hours locked in my dark closet letting my tears soak the carpeted floor.
Soon, you got smarter. You became meaner than my bullies. You began to dictate the narrative I accepted as truth.
“You don’t fit in.”
“You’re not pretty enough.”
“Everyone hates you.”
“No one would miss you if you were gone.”
You left me with one leg nervously bouncing at the lunch table. You left me with swollen eyes and mascara-stained pillow cases. You left me with secrets and red etchings on my skin. But you never left.
High school began and with it came trauma, heartbreak, and a desperate need to seem like I had it all together—even though my inner world felt like it was collapsing all around me. You were waiting. Your whispers turned to screams.
“You’re messed up beyond repair.”
“No one will ever want you.”
“You don’t belong anywhere.”
“Your parents’ separation is your fault.”
“You are worthless.”
“Your life has no purpose so end it.”
You left me with prayers to not wake up, and well formulated but failed plans. You left my mental list of dreams crossed out one by one in seemingly permanent marker. You left me looking for love and affirmation from anyone but myself, no matter how they treated me. You left my head spinning with anger and depression and anxiety for weeks, thinking I would never amount to anything.
I almost let you consume me. I almost let you drag me away. I almost let the shackles you had placed around my soul define me. I almost let you win.
But to my monster: You do not decide.
You do not decide my worth.
You do not decide my hopes.
You do not decide if I live.
You do not decide me.
You are an emotion. You are not my good days, and I am not my bad days. You are not my existence.
I am more than my pain and my monsters. I am more than a number on a scale, my struggles with vulnerability, and the mistakes I’ve made. I am more than a diagnosis, my fears, and my insecurities. My story doesn’t only contain the dark chapters and the nights I have survived. My thoughts, feelings, ideas, choices, and triumphs all deserve a seat at the table, too. I am worthy of another morning, another soft pretzel, another journal entry, and another day to search for the good in myself.
I’ll remember your name and your lies so I can discern your voice from my own. I will have hard conversations with counselors and friends who will fight alongside me. I’ll amplify my screams into the darkness until they silence yours. I will remind myself that I am a story worth writing. A pen to a piece of paper until the light comes rushing in like a sunrise and I finally believe it.